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CAFC committee provides over 30 recommendations for firefighter cancer framework

June 20, 2024 
By Jared Dodds


June 20, 2024, Ottawa — The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs released a 48-page report outlining their recommendations for a national firefighter cancer framework.

The report was in response to an invitation from Health Canada to help inform the framework, which the minister of health is set to introduce to the House of Commons in October.

The CAFC Cancer Committee hosted workshops from December 7 to 8 where members of the fire community reflected on five topics.

Discussions centred on the lived experience of firefighters with cancer and improvement opportunities, best practices for fire departments to take care of its own, and the perspectives from provinces and payers on prevention and presumptive legislation.

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The final sessions focused on determining how much is known about firefighter cancer and how to further that knowledge, and examining how to communicate with doctors, health systems, and researchers about these issues.

These discussions resulted in over 30 recommendations anchored by three core principles.

The first was to limit firefighter exposure to fire through stronger prevention methods, reducing cancer rates.

Second was the inclusion of multiple stakeholders and partners throughout the creation of these solutions, including firefighters, researchers, governments, and manufacturers of firefighting gear and equipment.

Finally, the report emphasized the importance of continued evolution of both the framework and the International Association for Research of Cancer, rather than remaining a snapshot of current day.

Specific framework recommendations included a harmonization of presumptive coverages across all provinces and territories as well as identifying and reducing the cost of illness to help offset the costs of portability and prevention.

In addition, the report encouraged measures to reduce the number of fires, particularly as the government continues to explore rapid housing development, electric vehicles, and other areas of innovation that will impact firefighters and their exposure to carcinogens.

Participants also highlighted the need for replacement or updating of firefighting equipment and promoted the establishment of a national fire administration to support ongoing leadership in this domain, identifying future opportunities to reduce firefighter cancer risks.

The report contained additional recommendations to the federal granting council, health charities, and researchers, which included more targeted research and systematic change to redefine knowledge translation between the firefighting, medical, and research communities.

For government officials, the report encouraged field research in partnership with firefighters to understand the trade-offs between different textiles used in gear, a continued facilitation of firefighter research forums, and the creation of standardized cancer screening standards for firefighters, among other suggestions.

Participants in workshops included representatives from the Canadian Wildfire Management Agencies and the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, members of Indigenous communities and the National Indigenous Fire Safety Council, and volunteer, career and composite departments.

To read the full report, visit the CAFC.


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